Sound levels in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) are often above recommended levels, but few researchers have identified the sound sources contributing to high levels.


To identify sources of PICU sound exposure.


This was a secondary analysis of continuous bedside video and dosimeter data (n = 220.7 hours). A reliable coding scheme developed to identify sound sources in the adult ICU was modified for pediatrics. Proportions of sound sources were compared between times of high (≥45 dB) and low (<45 dB) sound, during day (7 AM to 6:59 PM) and night (7 PM to 6:59 AM) shifts, and during sound peaks (≥70 dB).


Overall, family vocalizations (38% of observation time, n = 83.9 hours), clinician vocalizations (32%, n = 70.6 hours), and child nonverbal vocalizations (29.4%, n = 64.9 hours) were the main human sound sources. Media sounds (57.7%, n = 127.3 hours), general activity (40.7%, n = 89.8 hours), and medical equipment (31.3%, n = 69.1 hours) were the main environmental sound sources. Media sounds occurred in more than half of video hours. Child nonverbal (71.6%, n = 10.2 hours) and family vocalizations (63.2%, n = 9 hours) were highly prevalent during sound peaks. General activity (32.1%, n = 33.2 hours), clinician vocalizations (22.5%, n = 23.3 hours), and medical equipment sounds (20.6, n = 21.3 hours) were prevalent during night shifts.


Clinicians should partner with families to limit nighttime PICU noise pollution. Large-scale studies using this reliable coding scheme are needed to understand the PICU sound environment.

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